North Central College - Naperville, IL

Finding Real-Life Solutions with Real Estate Research

At a time when shopping malls need customers and condos aren't selling, market research can help developers make decisions about how to improve their properties. Brian Hanlon, assistant professor of marketing, uses his expertise in market research and real estate development to determine what appeals to potential customers. As a researcher and consultant, Hanlon uses customer choice modeling to determine how consumers make decisions and what factors influence their choices.

"The challenge is to encourage people to make realistic decisions," Hanlon says. "I'll give people hypothetical mixes of different retail stores and then analyze responses to find optimal combinations of retailers. For condo developments, I'll research the optimal price, size, number of bedrooms and features like granite and hardwood."

Using this research model, Hanlon and co-researcher Rohit Verma of Cornell University are advising the Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center, a United Methodist Church property in North Carolina. "This is a nonprofit entity trying to compete in a for-profit world," Hanlon explains. "My goal is to help figure out what this retreat center can do to entice vacationers and conference planners to use these facilities."

A North Central College grant helped fund the research and Dominic Sulo '10, a marketing major, is serving as a student research assistant. "Using our recommendations, the management team will make some decisions on how to improve the property," Hanlon adds.

Hanlon's other projects have included research for Chicago-based General Growth Properties, Citycon in Finland and Hammerson, based in the United Kingdom. Closer to Naperville, he is starting to work with Burr Ridge Village Center in Burr Ridge, IL, a mixed-use development combining retail, office and residential space. Many of these projects are sponsored by a firm called MindFolio; Hanlon is a member of its research advisory board.

Students in Hanlon's marketing classes reap benefits from his work. "They play with real data," he says. "I give them a chance to design a shopping mall, for example. What college student doesn't enjoy studying shopping malls?"

North Central NOW Fall 2008